Local Souls by Allan Gurganus

64%

5 Critic Reviews

In this book, too many of the author’s creations seem to have been set up so they could be knocked down. Of one nouveau riche newcomer to Falls, he writes, “He had the absolute standards of the absolutely powerless. But how he enjoyed them.”
-Washington Times

Synopsis

“This book underscores what we have long known—Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time.” —Ann Patchett


Through memorable language and bawdy humor, Gurganus returns to his mythological Falls, North Carolina, home of Widow. This first work in a decade offers three novellas mirroring today’s face-lifted South, a zone revolutionized around freer sexuality, looser family ties, and superior telecommunications, yet it celebrates those locals who have chosen to stay local. In doing so, Local Souls uncovers certain old habits—adultery, incest, obsession—still very much alive in our New South, a "Winesburg, Ohio" with high-speed Internet.

Wells Tower says of Gurganus, "No living writer knows more about how humans matter to each other." Such ties of love produce hilarious, if wrenching, complications: "Fear Not" gives us a banker's daughter seeking the child she was forced to surrender when barely fifteen, only to find an adult rescuer she might have invented. In "Saints Have Mothers," a beloved high school valedictorian disappears during a trip to Africa, granting her ambitious mother a postponed fame that turns against her. And in a dramatic "Decoy," the doctor-patient friendship between two married men breaks toward desire just as a biblical flood shatters their neighborhood and rearranges their fates.


Gurganus finds fresh pathos in ancient tensions: between marriage and Eros, parenthood and personal fulfillment. He writes about erotic hunger and social embarrassment with Twain's knife-edged glee. By loving Falls, Gurganus dramatizes the passing of Hawthorne’s small-town nation into those Twitter-nourished lives we now expect and relish.


Four decades ago, John Cheever pronounced Allan Gurganus "the most technically gifted and morally responsive writer of his generation." Local Souls confirms Cheever’s prescient faith. It deepens the luster of Gurganus’s reputation for compassion and laughter. His black comedy leaves us with lasting affection for his characters and the aching aftermath of human consequences. Here is a universal work about a village.

 

About Allan Gurganus

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Alan Gurganus's, books include White People and Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Gurganus is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Adaptations of his fiction have earned four Emmys. A resident of his native North Carolina, he lives in a village of six thousand souls.
 
Published September 23, 2013 by Liveright. 352 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Gay & Lesbian. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Local Souls
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jamie Quatro on Oct 11 2013

These local souls may be “fallen,” but Gurganus seems well aware that the biblical fall also implies a promise: the chance to earn forgiveness, and perhaps even redemption.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Sep 24 2013

Mr. Gurganus is a serious and important American writer — his work has meant a lot to me over time — and with “Decoy” it’s good to have him back after a long absence. But the first two novellas in “Local Souls” remind me of the character in one of them who lives on a cul-de-sac.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Jane Housham on Jun 06 2014

...Local Souls takes the form of several novellas bound together by a shared setting in Falls, North Carolina...It takes a while to attune your ear to Gurganus's pared-down prose, and until you do it can seem oddly unlubricated, sticking then surging by turns, with its quirky lack of definite articles. But, once in step, the pleasure is great...

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Kevin Fenton on Oct 19 2013

Between the jaunty prose, the colorful town and the rampant overachieving, a few patches get a little “Gilmore Girls.” Not that we don’t love hanging with Lorelei and Rory. Just not when the themes are this brave and the best prose is this dazzling.

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Washington Times

Below average
Reviewed by John Greenya on Feb 07 2014

In this book, too many of the author’s creations seem to have been set up so they could be knocked down. Of one nouveau riche newcomer to Falls, he writes, “He had the absolute standards of the absolutely powerless. But how he enjoyed them.”

Read Full Review of Local Souls | See more reviews from Washington Times

Reader Rating for Local Souls
60%

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